Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘yogyakarta’

Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

Stairs and moon

Stairway at Ratu Boko, a palace or monastery on a hill overlooking the area of Prambanan near Yogyakarta.

We had some time before nightfall and the start of the Ramayana Ballet, so our ticket purchase also included a tour of the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko. Haru and I drove away from Prambanan through rice fields and wound our way up on to a hill nearby as the afternoon was shading toward evening.

Evening rice field

A rice field in late evening as we drove to the hillside palace of Ratu Boko.

Haru waited in the parking lot while I climbed the stairs on to a plateau overlooking the plains around Yogyakarta and Prambanan. The rice paddies below made for excellent photos. There was a grassy area with bougainvillea and chickens as I walked toward the main stairway and gate.

New rice from hilltop

Rice fields as seen from the hilltop at Ratu Boko.

This complex was built sometime in the 9th Century CE based on inscriptions found here. There are also artifacts showing it included both Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram influences. No one knows exactly what it was used for – was it a palace? A monastery? A vacation spa? A fort? Maybe all of these at one time or another.

Outer gate

Stairways and paths lead through gates and a large grassy hilltop dotted with the ruins of temples and palaces at Ratu Boko.

Local legend say this was the palace of King Boko of the popular tale of Loro Janggrang. According to the story, Prince Bandung Bondowoso was a powerful man who fell in love with the daughter of King Boko. She did not love him, especially since he had killed her father in battle before falling in love with her. But he insisted, and she finally agreed on one condition: that he would build 1000 temples in one night. He agreed, and enlisted the aid of demons and giants to build 999 temples (which is the legend of how Pramabanan came to be). Fearing that he would succeed in her impossible request, she woke up her servants and told them to start pounding rice. The noise woke up the roosters, who started to crow. Fearing that morning was coming, the demons and giants fled back to the underworld and the final temple was never built. In a rage, the Prince Bandung cursed the princess and she was turned into stone, the actual statue of Durga in the Shiva temple at Prambanan. Loro Janggrang literally means “slender maiden,” the maiden of stone.

Ruined walls of stone

Ruined walls of stone at Ratu Boko.

There is a main double gateway at the top of the stairway that leads to an upper plateau with the ruins of temples, pools, and crematoriums. I wandered around the site and took photos, then walked back on a pathway to some ancient stairs and artificial caves used for meditation. It was peaceful there as the sun moved behind clouds on the horizon to the west. I captured some airplanes taking off from the Yogyakarta airport against the sunset.

Sunset at Ratu Boko

The sun setting behind the western mountains beyond Yogyakarta, as seen from the hilltop of Ratu Boko.

I took more photos of the rice paddies below the hill on my way back to the car. It was almost dark as we drove back down the hill and returned to Prambanan for the Ramayana Ballet.

Valley below

A view south from the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko.

Variable color bougainvillea

Variegated bougainvillea blossoms on the plateau leading to the Ratu Boko complex.

Worn with time

Worn with time, this stairway is at least 1100 years old.

New and old stairs

Pathways to the hilltop chambers behind the main plaza at Ratu Boko.

Ruins of Ratu Boko

Ruins of Ratu Boko.

Ratu Boko gate toward sunset

Sunset through the main gate at the Ratu Boko palace complex.

Jet against sunset

A jet taking off from the Yogyakarta airport, framed against the sunset at Ratu Boko.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from distance

The Hindu Temples of Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

After our abortive attempt to find a true chocolate factory, Haru drove me out of Kota Gede, which is a more difficult task than one might imagine. This being an ancient city, the roads were not built to accommodate modern traffic and are narrow, winding, and labyrinthine. After winding around through some small lanes we finally reconnected with the main highway out of Jogja and headed east past the airport.

Temple complex gate

Gateway to the Prambanan temple complex.

We stopped at a place where we could get a discount, and I paid 600,000 (about $50) for admittance to both Prambanan and the mountain temple of Ratu Boko. We then drove the short distance to Prambanan and parked in the large parking lot.

Temple of Shiva with tree

The largest of the temples at Prambanan is dedicated to Shiva, the Lord of Destruction and an essential part of the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Haru showed me to the entrance and I walked through, and I could finally see the temples peeking through the park’s trees. Some of the trees were massively tall, bigger than anything in America except redwoods and sequoias.

Corner temple

A smaller corner temple at Prambanan, this one dedicated to Garuda. Beyond the central complex lie a series of four rings of small pervara temples which are still mostly in ruins following an earthquake in 2006.

I explored the temple complex, which was built by the Hindu dynasties of Sanjaya and Mataram in the mid 9th Century. It was started with one temple to Shiva built by Rakai Pikatan, then extensively expanded by successive Mataram kings, who diverted a river to enlarge the temple complex, then built a series of smaller pervara temples ringing the main complex. Most of these are still in ruins, but a few have been restored.

Statue of Chandra

A statue to Chandra, one of the Hindu pantheon of gods. The Chandra X-Ray space telescope is named after this god.

Building Prambanan here signifies that the central Javanese kingdom had shifted from the Mahayana Buddhism of Borobudur to Hinduism. The main court and central government center were nearby, and all the important religious ceremonies took place here. As many as 200 monks or brahmins lived and worked in the complex and its surroundings. Yet within about 100 years the kingdom shifted its capital further east in Java, perhaps because of an eruption of Mt. Merapi nearby. Prambanan was slowly abandoned and fell into ruin, just as Borobudur was.

Huge temple

The central Shiva temple and flanking side temples are truly huge. These photos don’t really give an accurate sense of scale.

Local people forgot its origins, although they knew about the complex. Parts of it were used for constructing houses. An earthquake in the 16th Century further damaged the structures. A legend called the Rara Jonggrang grew up that the temple had been designed and built by demons and giants. During the British occupation of Indonesia, Colin Mackenzie, a surveyor for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, came across the ruins by accident in 1811. A complete survey was undertaken, but the site remained in ruins for decades before restoration efforts began by the Dutch in the 1930s and continue to this day. A major earthquake in 2006 damaged the buildings again, and the surrounding pervara temples are still largely in ruins.

Prambanan Map

A map of Prambanan. The pervara temples form four concentric rings around the central complex, which contains the large Shiva temple (which has separate chambers for his children and wives, including Durga and Ganesha) and two flanking temples to Vishnu and Brahma (the three major trimurti Hindu gods). Three smaller temples are dedicated to the vahana or mounts of the trimurti gods: Garuda, Hamsa, and Nandi. There are also two small temples tucked in for Lakhsmi and Sarasvati and four gates to the cardinal directions and a number of small shrines.

Prambanan centers around a large, ornate building dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Stairways on each side of the main temple lead up to chambers housing statues of Shiva and gods or goddesses associated with him, including Durga and Ganesha. A porch rings the building. Friezes are carved into the walls of the porch showing the stories of the Hindu gods, including Haruman, the Monkey God. Many of these scenes are from the Ramayana, which I will see later tonight. It tells of the romance of Rama with Sita and his struggle to rescue her after her kidnapping by the demon king Ravana.

Durga

Durga, a consort of Shiva. Her statue is in a separate chamber on the north side of the Shiva temple. This statue is also the origin of the legend of Loro Janggrang, the “maiden of stone.” When Prince Bandung Bondowoso’s attempt to build 1000 temples in one night was foiled by King Boko’s daughter, he turned her into stone with the help of his demon army.

On either side of the Shiva temple stand two smaller but still large temples dedicated to Vishnu and Brahma. In front of these are three slightly smaller temples dedicated to the vahana (vehicle or animal mount) of each of the trimurti gods: Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. Still smaller temples were built at each of the four cardinal direction gates, and four more at the corners of the inner complex, as well as two even smaller shrines. Beyond all of these lie a quadruple ring of 224 small pervara temples for individuals and kings. Altogether, the complex is laid out with precise symmetry and planning like a giant mandala, the product of an advanced civilization.

Kidnapping of Sita

Friezes carved into the walls of the walkways show scenes from the Ramayana. In this case, Sita is being kidnapped by the Demon King.

I spent about an hour and a half exploring the complex and taking photos and videos from many angles. I asked several people to take my photo, something I have a hard time remembering to do. One lady was from Hamburg, Germany and spoke excellent English. She had lived for a year in Evanston, Illinois.

Arjuna and Monkey King

In order to free the kidnapped Sita, Rama and Sita’s father make an arrangement with Haruman the Monkey King.

The path to the exit (keluar) took me way out around the temple but did offer nice views framed by trees of the entire complex. On the way out, the exit takes you through a phalanx of coconut, concessions, and souvenir stalls, but I have enough of those and will have a hard time fitting what I have in my suitcases anyway.

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva, god of death and destruction, as portrayed on the walls of his temple at Prambanan, Indonesia.

This is the first Hindu temple I’ve seen. I studied Hinduism as part of a World Religions class at Brigham Young University, and know that there are three central gods: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Each has his consort or wife, such as Parawata (Parvati) for Shiva, Lakshmi for Vishnu, etc. There are also lesser gods, such as Ganesha the Elephant God (son of Shiva and Parvati), Saraswati the Goddess of Wisdom, and Haruman the Monkey God. Each god can have different avatars or incarnations. For example, Vishnu has ten, of which nine have already existed, including Buddha (according to Hindus, Buddha is a form of Vishnu), and Krishna. The tenth avatar of Vishnu (Kalki) is yet to come at the end of the world. As a major research paper required of all students at BYU, I researched the recurrence of Messiah figures in various religions, and was astonished at the similarities between the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, Kalki, and the Hidden Imam.

Water spout

A waterspout at the corner of a temple at Prambanan. The planning involved in just creating a water drainage system for the torrential tropical rains is amazing to me.

My impressions and feelings about Prambanan are mostly awe at the central planning and architecture needed to carry out such a coordinated project. This whole complex, like Borobudur, had to be planned in advance, cleared out of the jungle, with blocks quarried from andesite rock (the only type available locally, given this is a region of composite volcanoes). Those rocks had to be transported, shaped at the site, and fitted in place. It is a huge complex, requiring advanced construction techniques using hand tools. Even the water drainage system was carefully thought out. I have no idea how many people worked on this, or the power of the leaders who commanded it, or the devotion of the people who worked, prayed, and sacrificed here. It is a monument to faith, which I can understand, as my own people build monuments to their faith around the world in the form of our temples.

Many temples

Many temples at Prambanan.

All of this and within a century the government moved to another location and allowed this incredible site to be forgotten. The feeling of history is palpable here, as it is in places like Jerusalem and Rome that I have visited. Americans have no idea of the depth of history that surrounds so many places in the world. Now our modern civilization overlies and surrounds all of this, with a mosque just across the main road to Prambanan.

Temples and moon

The moon rising over the temple complex at Prambanan.

Indonesia sits on major trade routes between the Indian Ocean and East Asia, and its history is a long tale of cultural influences, migration, and conquest. One of my most important goals is to see how these influences and religions shape the daily life of the Indonesian people. I saw how Islam affected the lives of Nazar and his family and the students at his school. Yesterday I saw how Buddhism was practiced here, and today I saw ancient Hinduism. Tomorrow I will begin to explore Bali to see the daily actions of Hindus there.

David with Prambanan complex

David Black with the Prambanan temple complex behind.

David at Prambanan

David Black at Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Juxtaposition

An airplane takes off from the Yogyakarta airport, juxtaposed with the temples of Prambanan. I was to see this exact view the next morning, but from the airplane looking down.

Prambanan through trees

Prambanan temples through the trees.

Wood carver and shop

On my way exiting the Prambanan complex, I had to pass through a phalanx of souvenir shops including this woodcarving shop.

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

David painting batik

David Black paiting a batik floral design at the Museum Batik Yogyakarta

Before going up to my room the day before, I sat down with the concierge at the front desk as they had a sign saying they could work out any tour we wanted. I had some specific things I wanted to still see and do in Yogyakarta, so I designed a custom tour. But knowing that I would need to take it easy in the morning due to the strenuous day I had the day before, I decided to start the tour at 1:00 and have the morning to do what I wanted.

Vine covered tree

I walked past this tree, covered in vines, on my way to the museum.

When I woke up after a nice sleep in, I showered and dressed and headed down to the lobby for breakfast. It had been too early the day before to eat the complimentary breakfast buffet, but I was hungry this morning. They had some good items, such as a delicious bread pudding, fruit, and different juices.

Types of canting

Canting (pronounced “chanting”) are pens that hold the batik wax (malam) and come in different styles and spout sizes depending on the types of lines or dots desired.

I looked over my computer to see what to do this morning. I hadn’t made it to the Kraton yet – they are supposed to have nice dancing and wayang puppet shows. I also wanted to learn more about batik and perhaps take a class, but was afraid that would take too long. One other place I had researched was the Museum Batik Yogyakarta. I discovered it was very near my hotel – only about two blocks away. So I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and headed out.

Drawn cartoon

The first step is to draw a pencil line drawing or cartoon that is traced through the cloth.

I walked to the intersection near the hotel, then turned east and walked two blocks. I turned north for half a block, then took a smaller alleyway back west and around to the entrance to the museum (I had to follow the signs). I must have been early or before opening time, because they didn’t have anyone ready to purchase my ticket. But they got their act together and I paid a small fee to enter. The museum itself began with a display of different types of canting, some from various provinces or with various types of openings, for doing single and double dots or lines, etc. It had a display of how to make the wax for batik, called malam, and of different dye stuffs. It showed some small stoves designed by this museum to use a votive candle to melt the wax. It showed how patterns are drawn.

Waxed lines

The traced pencil lines on the cloth are then draw over with malam (wax) using a canting.

I wasn’t allowed to photograph the batik samples themselves, but they were OK with my photographing the process. The museum itself was rather dark without much lighting, so I hope I held still enough to get some photos in focus. A lady came to act as a guide for me by this time, and I photographed a variety of cap designs. They had a huge embroidered tapestry of the Last Supper (based on Da Vinci’s painting) and of Jerusalem (the lady who started this museum was a Christian).

Caps

Alternatively, a design can be stamped or printed onto the fabric by dipping these copper strip patterns, called “cap” (pronounced “chop”) into the malam wax and pressing it onto the cloth. The museum had many caps on display.

I also took photos of a woman doing some batik waxing and of their store. I bought some malam wax and the burner kits, and they gave me samples of bark used for dyes (possibly sandalwood). All of this was packaged into a nice bag.

Painting dyes

Samples of batik dyes. They are now made from synthetic materials, but the museum also had displays of natural dyestuffs. In this case, the dyes are painted on with a brush between the waxed lines, something like paint-by-numbers or watercolors. They had these samples so visitors could practice painting designs.

I was the only one touring the museum, and it was a bit out of the way, but I learned a lot and got some good photos of the procees. Combined with what I got at the workshop two days before, and my own class in Jakarta, I now have good footage to use for a video on batik.

I walked back to the hotel and laid down for a while to cool off in the air conditioning. Noon time prayer started, and two different mosques were calling out the salat. I recorded some video of it, because the stereophonic sound was quite compelling. The muezzins in these mosques are very good.

Hotel circles cap

A cap with circular patterns in the Hotel Jambuluwuk lobby.

Preparing for third color

To get multiple colors in batiks that are immersion dyed, the wax must be applied several times to different areas and on both sides of the cloth. Here, a lady is waxing an area to cover a color so that the batik can be dyed a third color.

Historic batik

I wasn’t allowed to take close up photos of most of the batik patterns, but my guide did allow me to take this photo showing the samples of batiks they had displayed at the museum.

Dutch and royal patterns

A combination of influences are seen in this batik, where the patterns in the background represent Indonesian royalty. The floral patterns are a Dutch influence.

Single color batik

A single-color batik, with the wax removed to leave white un-dyed cloth.

Styles of canting

Different styles of canting. Based on my trials at school, using a canting is tricky as the wax has to remain at just the right temperature; too hot, and it will be too thin and run or splatter. Too cool, and it will solidify and plug the spout of the canting.

Painted batik

A hand painted batik. The wax acts as a barrier to prevent colors from spilling or spreading, and it is then boiled out to leave white lines where the wax was.

David tracing cartoon

I am practicing tracing a cartoon design through the cloth.

Kit for sale

The museum had a gift shop with batik kits for sale, including a small folding paper stove with votive candle for melting the malam, wedge-shaped chunks of malam itself, cantings, dyes, and patterns. I didn’t buy entire kits, as I figured we already had the dyes from our tie dye experiments and I can get embroidery hoops easily in America. So I purchased several stoves, more malam, and more cantings for my students. They through in a bag of the reddish bark in the jar, which I believe is sandalwood.

 

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 2: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Borobudur panorama-s

A panoramic image of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

 

Borobudur model

A model of Borobudur, a 9th Century Buddhist temple north of Yogyakarta, from which I experienced sunrise on Aug. 3, 2017.

My second day in Yogyakarta began very early with a 3:00 wake-up call. I had signed up for an all-day tour to sites around the area of Jogja, as it is called, starting with a sunrise tour of Borobudur, an 9th Century Buddhist temple at the base of the central Java mountains.

Borobudur through trees

A view of Borobudur temple through the trees.

I quickly showered and got ready. Down in the lobby, I got some cash out of the ATM machine to cover my expenses for the day. My tour included only the car and driver; I would have to pay admission to each stop. It had seemed the best way to get the combination of places I wanted to visit. As it turned out, I should have gotten some extra for tips and a lunch that was more than expected.

Buddha-mountains-blue sky

One of many Buddha statues carved from volcanic ash at Borobudur Temple near Yogyakarta. The hills to the east are the rim of an ancient caldera, and rise up beyond to Gunung Sumbing, the peak just to the left of the Buddha’s head.

My driver arrived at 3:30 and I loaded into his car. It was pitch dark still, and the streets were deserted. This was the least traffic I saw all the time I was here. We drove north out of Jogja, passing along a road similar to the one I’d traveled on to get to the Meratus Mountains in Borneo. We passed through several smaller towns, and I dozed off, but the jostling of the road kept waking me up. We turned toward the northwest and after about 40 minutes on the road, arrived at the parking lot.

Yogya area google earth

We traveled northwest of Yogyakarta on Highway 14 to Magelung, where Borobudur is located, about a 40 minute trip. To the east of the gray-green dot of Borobudur lie the foothills leading to Gunung Sumbing. Mendot Temple (next blog post) lies on a direct line between Borobudur and Mt. Merapi.

My driver (I have forgotten his name) took my money and paid for the entrance fee, which included a small cloth printed with a batik pattern of the temple stupas. I picked up a flashlight, and he told me he would meet me back at the bottom when I was done. I followed the pathway and the people ahead of me.

Borobudur predawn

Stupas at Borobudur in the pre-dawn light, looking east-southeast.

It was too dark still to see anything, and the weather was a bit drizzly and foggy. We came to a gate and some stairs that led upwards, and I could see some flashlight beams climbing the temple above me. I began to climb too, afraid that there might be too many stairs for my legs to handle. Although they were uneven, with some stairs taller than others, it wasn’t too bad and the cool pre-dawn temperatures made things better. I took my time, because dawn was still a long time away. There were several levels with pathways leading off in both directions but I stayed on the main staircase, figuring that I could explore better when it was light.

Stupas at Borobudur in early light

Dawn approaches at Borobudur.

I reached the top sooner than I thought I would and circled around the large central stupa to find a spot away from everyone else and their lights. It was still drizzling lightly, but as the first light of dawn began to creep around the eastern mountains, I found a quiet place to sit down. I tried to lie down to rest a bit, but someone came around and told us not to sit or lie on the central stupa (I hadn’t seen the signs). I moved to the overhang at the edge of the top ring of smaller stupas and found a nice spot away from others’ lights where I could watch the dawn come on.

Borobudur cross section

A cross section diagram of Borobudur. Built on a natural hill or volcano, the temple is divided into three main sections representing the foot (Kamadhatu), the body (Rupadhatu), and the head (Arupadhatu). Pilgrims begin at the bottom and circumambulate around the levels, working their way up as they view carvings depicting the life of the Buddha, until they reach the central stupa at the top. This journey represents the journey to enlightenment.

Stupas in the mist

The stupas hold statues of the Buddha. Here, a light drizzly mist set in just before sunrise, hiding the hills to the east.

The drizzling intensified, then tapered off and quit. The clouds began to dissipate, and the sky continued to lighten. It is said that Borobudur is spectacular, and I’ve seen photos, but the reality is always so much better. I tried taking some photos and videos but it was still too dark.

Borobudur stupas 2

The stupas are located in a triple ring around the large, central stupa at the top of the complex. A believer will start at the bottom and walk around each ring, seeing carved reliefs depicting the Buddha’s life, and reaching the top level which represents enlightenment or nirvana.

I walked around the central stupa to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. To the direct south the most people were clumped up, but they were beginning to break apart and start exploring as the light grew. I returned to my spot and continued to wait. It was peaceful, and I could almost imagine I was the only person there, enjoying the solitude of this temple. Then someone would walk by with their flashlight on and shine it in my face. But overall it was a tranquil, meditative experience.

Buddha and toes

The tops of some of the bell-shaped stupas have been removed, revealing the Buddha statues within.

Dawn came on and I began to take more photos. The sun was still hidden behind clouds that came and went, but as the morning progressed the clouds burned off to a brilliant blue sky with a few puffy clouds. I took many photos and video clips of me walking along the pathways. I tried to avoid getting people in my shots, but it was difficult. As I descended to lower levels, there were fewer people and I could take photos easier. Some of the stupas, which look like bells with diamond or square holes in them, have been removed. Inside there are statues of the Buddha sitting in lotus position. Most of the stupas are still intact, and there are 72 of them as you can see.

David with central stupe

David Black at Borobudur, with the large central stupa in the background. The smaller stupas, or bell-shaped structures with the lattice designs, each contain a seated Buddha statue and form three rings around the central stupa.

There are nine levels to the temple, including two circular levels at the top. The lower pathways are enclosed in balustrades. They are laid out in a complex pattern that forms a mandala from above. In addition to the Buddhas in the stupas (72 of these), there are other Buddhas sitting in niches (504 Buddhas in all), with 2672 bas relief wall panels depicted events from the Buddha’s life. There are rain spouts shaped like mythical monsters (very similar to the gargoyles of medieval cathedrals in Europe). There are stone lions guarding the stairwells and pathways. And everywhere there are Buddhas and more Buddhas.

David at Borobudur with mountains

David Black at Borobudur in Indonesia. Notice that the stupa next to me has square holes whereas the stupas on the next two levels down have diamond shaped holes. The hills behind me lead up to the crest of Mt. Sumbing.

Borobudur was built around 800 CE by the Sailendra Kingdom of southern Java. It was designed by the poet-architect Gunadharma and took thousands of workers to carve the blocks of andesitic volcanic ash into these shapes. The entire temple is built over a mound of earth, perhaps a natural hill. It has four main stairways to the main compass points and is the largest single Buddhist temple in the world. Used for about 100 years, the temple was abandoned when the seat of government moved elsewhere.

1-Crowds at Borobudur

The area around the central stupa was very crowded with tourists, especially on the southern and eastern sides. We had a light drizzle of rain just at sunrise, which was unfortunate, but then the skies cleared and it was a beautiful, sunny day.

The temple was reclaimed by the jungle and partially buried by volcanic ash flows, until being rediscovered by the British under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1814. It has been rebuilt and repaired to its former glory, with several major renovations. The largest problem now is the wear of so many tourist feet on the stairs, so they have been partially covered with wood to protect them. I am one of those tourists, and I tried to show this monument all of the respect it deserves.

BUddha and water spout

In addition to the stupa Buddhas, there are many others inside niches and elsewhere around the walls of the lower levels, for 504 Buddhas in all. The grotesque face in bottom right is a gargoyle rain spout. This candi, or temple, is carefully planned so that rainwater will drain through the various levels.

As part of the religious observances here, devotees start at the bottom of the pyramid and walk the pathways in a clockwise fashion, circling around the temple (candi in Indonesian) completely before ascending to the next level. Tales of Siddhartha’s life, his past lives, and his teachings (Dharma) are part of the relief panels seen on the walls. The pilgrim’s journey through Buddha’s life and teachings represents the journey to Enlightenment as the pilgrim ascends through the nine levels and three main sections representing the Feet (Kamadhatu – the bottom casement and hidden foot reliefs – this represents worldly desires), the Body (Rupadhatu – the square section of seven levels with Buddhas sitting in niches representing the World of Forms), and the Head (Arupadhatu – the upper open round platforms with 72 stupas representing the World of Formlessness, where earthly desires and suffering are stripped away). The large central stupa at the top represents enlightenment, and is dedicated to Vairocana, the Great Sun Buddha. It was built with two inner chambers (now empty – the contents have probably been plundered) and had a golden Chattra on top that has been removed.

Buddha mural

Around the walls of the lower levels are carved reliefs depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life. Born Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha lived a life of luxury free from pain or disease until he left his walled palace. He then met a sick man, and old man, and a grieving widow and realized that life if suffering, that suffering comes from desire, and that desire can be eliminated through following the Eight Fold Path to enlightenment. Buddhists visiting this temple start at the lower levels and walk up in a spiral pattern, reviewing the Buddha’s life as they reach the highest level of the temple, representing the head or nirvana (enlightenment).

As the clouds cleared the nearby mountains glowed green and provided a perfect backdrop to the meditating Buddha statues. I took photos of the entire temple – it is truly huge – as I climbed down from the circular platforms to the lower levels. I took photos of the sun’s interplay with stone, air, and clouds. I descended to the lower levels and finally to the casement, taking photos of the whole structure that I can assemble into a panorama.

Ranks of Buddhas

Ranks of Buddhas in the lower levels of Borobudur. The day started cloudy and drizzly, but the clouds cleared out and the sky turned bright blue with brilliant green vegetation around the temple.

I walked back to the ticket area along a pathway lined with red andong flowers and met my driver. This has already been a day worth remembering. The sunrise wasn’t as colorful as some might be, but the blue sky and green mountains, the tranquil temple and the peaceful ambience made this an experience that I will often return to in my memory. Whenever I get stressed out or busy, I can come back here in my mind and meditate as the sun rises over Borobudur.

4-Guardian lion

The stairwells are guarded by stone lions such as this one.

8-Temple and mountains

The south face of Borobudur and mountains to the west. The entire temple sits on a stone casement or bottom level, but inside the core is a natural hill.

Walls of Borobudur in sunlight

The lower levels of Borobudur, bathed in early morning sunlight. Pilgrims start at the bottom and work their way up, but I climbed to the top before dawn with a flashlight, then walked down through the levels. The top area was very crowded (it took some doing to take photos without people in them), but the lower levels were much less crowded and more serene.

Stairway

View through a stairway leading down from the top of Borobudur. This temple was abandoned about 100 years after completion and was largely reclaimed by the jungle, until it was rediscovered by a team under Sir Thomas Raffles in 1814. It was cleared and repaired several times since. Recently, the steps have been covered and reinforced because of cumulative wear from tourists like me.

Hills in the mist

View south from Borobudur in the pre-dawn mist.

Buddha hair detail

Buddha details with the mountains behind. The long ear lobes represent long life and wisdom in Buddhist iconography. This is one of 504 Buddha statues at Borobudur.

Chariot carving

A scene from the life of the Buddha, one of 2672 carved relief panels at Borobudur.

Borobudur corner

A corner of Borobudur as seen from below, standing on the lower casement level. The walls form pathways and rings, laid out in a complex mandala structure.

Red plants

Red andong plants lining the pathway back from Borobudur. These are commonly seen throughout Indonesia. The gardens surrounding Borobudur were beautiful.

 

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

 

Motorized becak

This is the motorized becak driver I rented to get from Malioboro Street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. Many becak are essentially backwards tricycles – seats supported by two wheels mounted before a single wheel and seat on which the driver sits and pedals. This one was mounted on a motorcycle frame, which made for a faster ride and some fun video. I would have walked, but I was out of water, overheated, and hungry. It only cost about $5.

After walking along Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta for about an hour, I finally decided that I had seen enough for now and was in need of food. I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk in this heat and I was out of the bottled water I had been carrying, so I hailed a becak driver. This one had the customer seat mounted on a motorcycle, and we took off after I climbed aboard. I took some fun video of us weaving through the streets. Within a few minutes we were back at the hotel.

I drank some bottled water (I was a bit dehydrated) and ate some snacks I had bought at the Alpha Mart. I laid out the purchases I had made – my new garish multicolored leather hat, my artistic batiks, the wooden bicycle and colorful dress – and took photos of them to send to my wife for approval. I rested for a while, then was ready to head out on my next expedition.

Becak driver

This was my second becak driver, this one on a traditional pedaled frame. He took me from the hotel down to the Kraton, which wound up being closed, then to a restaurant for supper. This is a common way for people to get around here – you see becaks all over the city.

This time I wanted to head to the historic Kraton area of Yogyakarta. I had a map and could have walked, but decided to try a pedicab (becak) instead, since it wasn’t very expensive. It didn’t take long to find one, as they park at most intersections or can be hailed as they peddle past. This driver spoke pretty good English and when I explained where I wanted to go, he said the Karaton was most likely closed by now (it was after 5:00) but he knew a place to get some good batik. Of course he did. Everyone here seems to have their connections.

There are times that I have felt guilty as a “wealthy” and decadent American, for example having poor pedicab drivers drive me around the city. I have to keep thinking that this is a normal and accepted way of getting around here, and that the becak drivers choose this as their livelihood. I don’t try to negotiate them down to prices so low that they can’t make a living; $4 for a ride of about one mile is considered a good fare here and it certainly saves me time and sweat. A good thing for both parties. Having me for a fare is certainly better for them than sitting around with no fare at all. I refuse to feel guilty for helping people make a living.

Keraton

The Karaton or administrative center of Yogyakarta. When the Dutch controlled Indonesia, this was the government center for this part of Java, and is still a center of culture, with dances, wayang puppet shows, and gamelon orchestra performances daily. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed. I didn’t get the chance to return. My becak driver did take me to a batik store he knew, where I bought two nice scarves.

So I climbed aboard and off we went. The city has fairly flat topography with a dip around the river. He had to work a bit to get us up the hill on the other side. We cut across to the road that parallels Malioboro Street, then headed south to a large grassy area and old white colonial style buildings in the heart of the town. As he said, these buildings (the Karaton or old administrative capital) and the museums nearby were closed. We continued on a couple of blocks, then turned west and went down a more narrow road with batik and clothing shops on both sides. We stopped in front of one he said had a good selection and I went in. The front part of the store had clothing that was a bit beyond my price range, but I found some inexpensive yet beautiful scarves in the back. I bought one for my daughter and one for my sister.

Jogja map-s

A map of Yogyakarta. The map I had from the Hotel Jambuluwuk was better, but still not very detailed. The roads are not this straight, except for Malioboro Street itself. After buying the scarves (yellow circle) my becak driver took me to a restaurant (green circle) on the other side of the Karaton where I ate fried chicken (ayam goreng). I then walked (purple lines) up Jalan A. Yani and Malioboro. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts across the street, then continued on the west side all the way up past the train tracks before realizing I had gone too far, then doubled back, but still missed my road, went back north again until I finally rented another pedicab at the north end of Malioboro St. I should have marked the location of my hotel on my map before I left (located on this map as the red circle).

My driver was waiting for me as I came out – I suppose having a guaranteed fare was better than looking around for one even if he had to wait for me while I shopped. We pumped up the gentle hill back to the Karaton and I told him all I wanted was to find a place to eat, as I was very hungry by now. My snacks had not kept me going very long. He said he knew a good place, so we circled around the grassy area to the east side. A road led due east away from the Karaton, and in less than a block we stopped at an open-air but covered restaurant similar to others I’ve eaten at here in Indonesia. I insisted to my driver that I was done and wanted to walk back to the hotel from here, so he finally left after I paid him.

Malioboro Street 2

Malioboro Street near the Karaton looking north.

I ordered some Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) as that seemed a safe bet. It was inexpensive and not a large portion, but was the best tasting fried chicken I had in Indonesia. I figured I could find some additional snacks along Malioboro Street.

It was twilight as I left the restaurant (evening comes early in the tropics) and the action on Malioboro Street was just ramping up. There were stalls selling a variety of foods (I never did try the gudeng stew that is a specialty here – I didn’t dare eat from the street vendors selling it) but the food, which was out on display in steaming pots, looked very enticing. Then I saw a sign across the road for Dunkin Donuts, so I stopped in and had two of them. I was now good to go.

Food stall

Food stalls along Malioboro Street near the Karaton.

As it grew darker, I walked down the street, sometimes on the sidewalk, somethings further onto the street past the carriage drivers where there was more room, sometimes I entered the shops or stopped to look at the open stalls. There were a lot of tourists, including Indonesians and Europeans or Australians, and it all had the air of a bazaar or fleamarket. I’m not much into shopping, as I have said before, but this was as much a cultural experience as it was shopping, so I just went with the flow and enjoyed it.

Food stall 2

More food at a buffet restaurant on Malioboro St. We had been warned at the Embassy not to eat food from a street vendor, and I had just eaten fried chicken anyway, which I topped off with two Dunkin Donuts across the street.

I found some very colorful (and cheap) shirts for my two younger sons and a wallet for myself as a Christmas present. I took some photos. I passed a Chinese temple. I came to train tracks and crossed them, and eventually ran out of stores. I hadn’t been paying much attention to where I was, so I finally pulled out my map and realized I had gone too far for my street back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. I must have missed it in the dark. I walked back across the railroad tracks, but didn’t see the cross street I was looking for and decided maybe I hadn’t gone far enough, so I back stepped again – I finally realized that I didn’t exactly know where the entrance to my road back was. I wasn’t really lost, as I knew I was on Malioboro Street (that was obvious) but it is a long street. And my feet were getting very tired.

Malioboro Street 3

Malioboro Street looking north, just after sunset.

I found a group of becak drivers hanging out at the end of the last stores and asked one for a ride back. He knew where my hotel was (great!) but I didn’t have the right change to pay him, so I gave him a 100,000 rupiah bill that I fished out of the reserve pouch that I have velcroed under my pants on my left calf. He got change with another driver, and gave me back two bills. I thought he had taken his fare out already and had given me one 50,000 and one 5,000 bill (we had negotiated for 45,000 or about $4), but he actually gave me back two 50,000 bills. It was difficult to negotiate since his English was sketchy and my Indonesian is even more limited.

Malioboro at night

Malioboro Street at night.

I got aboard, happy for a chance to sit down. He peddled back the way I had come – I had gone much further than I had thought – and turned onto my road back, which I don’t know if I would have ever recognized in the dark as it isn’t a very wide road. We peddled across the bridge and he pumped me up to the road leading to the hotel (Jalan Gajah Mada). We pulled up to the hotel, and he asked for his money. I thought I had already paid him (that he had taken his pay from my 100,000 bill), so I told him I had already paid. It took the help of the doorman at the hotel for us to communicate and for me to realize the fault was mine. I not only paid the driver my negotiated amount but a good tip besides. He was much happier.

Shopping spree 2b

The results of my second outing to Malioboro Street. I bought two T-shirts for my sons, two scarves, and two printed batik style shirts (very inexpensive). The brown tailed cap is the style of hats in Yogyakarta. The wooden bicycle was purchased earlier in the day, along with the colorful leather hat.

This was the only time in Indonesia where I had major trouble with a language barrier, and it was my own pride as an American that got in the way, making assumptions and being too suspicious of someone. I thought he was trying to rip me off. He wasn’t. I learned to be more careful of my money and to pay attention to the bills more. The 50,000 and 5,000 bills are both blue, so they look similar but are for widely different amounts.

It felt good to get back to my room. I left a message at the front desk to give me a wake-up call for 3:00 in the morning, and ate a few of the snacks I’d brought back from my stop at the Alpha Mart earlier. I had a bottle of red Stroberi Fanta that I drank from and left by my bedside, but I must not have put the lid on all the way. Sometime during the night, I bumped the bottle off the nightstand and a small amount of the red pop spilled onto the carpet. It was to be problem, because by the time I discovered it, I wasn’t able to get the stain out.

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Malioboro wares

The sidewalk along Malioboro Street. The cars take the center lanes, which are separated from the outer lanes where becak drivers and horse carriages wait for customers. Then at the edge are open air stalls, as you see to the right here, then the main covered sidewalk, then higher cost businesses in the main buildings. For example, Batik Keris is an upscale batik clothing retail store.

On my first afternoon in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I had just finished purchasing some authentic batik art at an artists’ workshop and exhibition just off Malioboro Street. The pieces were removed from their frames and carefully folded. My most important purchases done, I walked back to Malioboro Street and north.

Malioboro Street, or Jalan Malioboro as it is named in Bahasa Indonesia, is something like a long open-air bazaar or shopping mall catering mostly to tourists that runs north of the Kraton, or the old administrative center of the city. Everyone goes here in the evenings, so its a place to see, to shop, to buy, and to be seen.

Malioboro Street has several layers, with becak drivers (pedicabs) and horse carriages waiting for customers, then open-air stalls selling clothing, wood carvings, and everything else you can think of. Then there was the sidewalk, crowded with tourists, and finally the stores inside the buildings themselves.

Malioboro carriage

The horse carriages of Yogyakarta are quite famous, as at the becak drivers (pedicabs). This shows the layout of Malioboro Street: cars and motorized traffic in the middle, horse carriages and becaks in the outer lanes, then open air shops, a sidewalk, and fancier stalls in the buildings. This can be considered as one of the longest open air markets in the world.

I wanted to get some things that would remind me of Yogyakarta but would be for particular people. Mostly I looked at what was available and getting a feel for the prices, so that I could come back later in the evening to buy. I did buy a wooden bicycle that reminded me of the bike I drove for two years in Taiwan as a missionary, except if was lacking the big yellow sign. I’ll have to add that later. It even had the Asian style kick stand that is far superior to American kick stands and the luggage rack at the back. Only the handlebars were different.

I also bought an inexpensive but colorful dress for my wife, but it wound up being too small on top (I really am incompetent at buying women’s clothing and probably shouldn’t try, but I can’t pass up this opportunity).

Batik printed skirts

Colorful skirts in printed batik patterns. Many shops sold dresses like these, or T-shirts, or wooden carvings, or leather work (I bought a new wallet for me), or wood work (I bought a wooden bicycle similar to one I rode in Taiwan as a missionary 36 years ago).

Overall I don’t much like to shop, but here was a cultural opportunity to visit one of the longest open-air markets in the world, get to mingle with other tourists and see the colorful shops and carriages, and get some shopping done as well. I planned on returning to Malioboro Street once I had found some supper.

Read Full Post »

Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dragon batik-undistort

A Chinese dragon batik to be displayed as art, done by a master.

On my first afternoon in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I walked from the Hotel Jambuluwuk to Malioboro Street. On the way, two people diverted me to a batik exhibition. Although I was a bit suspicious that so many people wanted to help me find the place, I wanted to buy some authentic batik, not just prints. So off I went.

Batik art 4

Traditional Javanese fold art batik, for sale at the batik exhibition.

The batik workshop was just off of a main road that runs perpendicular to Malioboro Street. It is a school for training batik master artists. It takes four years to complete the program. Examples of student and master works were stacked up along the walls and hanging up everywhere, each in a temporary wooden frame labeled with a letter. The price list depended on the letters, and the pieces I really liked were too expensive for me. I knew I would probably spend more here than for all other souvenirs combined elsewhere, but I had found what I was looking for: true artistic batik, not prints. These are not for clothing but to frame and hang up.

Abstract artist

Batik artist showing an example of his work. His designs are abstract and polychromatic. He also explained the process to us.

There were many styles, such as abstract works with mainly blues and purples, loosely drawn images in oranges, reds, and crimsons which I liked a great deal. Some were realistic, some were stylistic. I finally found the cheapest ones in a corner marked “K” and found a particular style of dotted outlines showing images of Buddhas and Ganeshas from Borobudur and Prambanan. There was a small volcano image done by the orange-crimson stylist that I picked out. I was able to put them up against an LED light to see how the light transmitted through the cloth.

Batik art

Stacks of batik art awaiting sale at the “exhibition.” Prices depended on the status of the artist and size of the batik: student works sold for less than masters’ works, and smaller less than larger. You can see the styles of various artists here – the abstract artist of the previous photo on the bottom right, the folk art style at the bottom middle, and so on. I spent quite a bit of time looking for the least expensive yet attractive batiks that also provided a sense of Yogyakarta.

In a side room people were demonstrating how to do batik to the many tourists there. I was the only American, but there were Australians and Europeans from various places watching. A young man was talking about how batik is done while a woman demonstrated the process. I videotaped what he was saying. He was the artist who did the blue-purple abstract works. After he was done, another artist came up for the next group. He was the master who did the free-style red and crimson works, including the volcano I quite liked. I got some good photos and videos here.

Woman with canting 3

A woman demonstrating the process of batik. She is dipping her canting pen into a pot of melted malam, or batik wax, and tracing the wax along drawn lines on the cloth. Some artists pre-draw intricate patterns, others draw freehand. Some paint dye inside the lines, others create a more general dyed pattern with the wax keeping areas white like a blueprint.

I decided, after quite a bit of searching, to buy three of the student projects with the dotted outlines – two Buddhas, one in shades of magenta with a craquelure finish and one in blues. The other was a yellow-green Ganesha. Then I decide to buy the volcano, which I showed to the artist. He confirmed it was one of his, and even posed holding it up – but he insisted on taking it out of its frame and putting the frame around himself, since he was the greatest work of art. Funny guy. Altogether I spent about $70 U.S. for these four pieces. That’s less than $20 each, which is not bad for original batik art. Perhaps if I had time to search I could have found cheaper stuff, but here I had the added value of meeting the artists themselves. Despite the agents pulling us in to this place, I did not feel ripped off or hustled while there. It saved me time and I got to see some truly beautiful pieces, as you can tell from my photos, which really don’t do them very much justice.

Most valuable artist

A piece of batik that I bought, and the artist who created it. This is a painting of Mt. Merapi, near Yogyakarta. He felt that he was an even greater piece of art, which is why he is framing himself. The piece of the dragon and the horses are also his works.

Shopping spree 1

Altogether I bought four pieces of artistic batik, three by a student that had similar designs – two of buddhas from Borobudur and one of a Ganesha from Prambanan. For these pieces, the student used wax dots to follow outlines, but different areas of cloth were also waxed and dyed separately; the outer areas were also crumbled by had to make a craquelure pattern. The Gunung Merapi piece is on the right. My crazy leather hat is in front. I two other items were bought later, as described in my next post.

Batik art 5

This is a nice piece – I like the play of colors, but it was a bit out of my price range.

Batik art 3

A highly ornate piece where the colors are painted between the lines of wax.

Woman with fan-horses batiks

Two different styles of batik: on the left, the design is pre-drawn on cloth and the wax added to the lines, then the areas between are painted in with dyes like a paint-by-numbers picture. On the left, a free-hand design is drawn with wax, then the entire piece colored in one pass. Sometimes a cross between these two methods is used by waxing over large areas and dyeing others, then alternating.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »